Tips for successful goodbyes

As each new year starts, we notice many parents struggling with morning drop-offs as everyone adjusts to being back into routine. Children are often in tears, and parents, unsure of what to do, feeling a mixture between frustration and guilt and after the first few days of challenging drop-offs, are beginning to lose patience. At the same time, feeling guilty about leaving their upset children behind. Not exactly a stress-free start to the day for anyone involved!

Here are a few helpful tips and strategies we have put together to support successful drop offs at Elm Tree that will help your child settle and make it easier for you to leave with a cheerful goodbye.

Manage your own emotions: The most effective thing parents can do is to manage their own anxiety around the transition. Children often do fine in new environments with new routines and schedules if children are well informed of what is about to happen and have a consistent routine. A good phrase to keep in mind is “if a child can anticipate, they can participate”. Children often pick up on our own stress, and this can make the adjustment harder for them. It’s not only okay but perfectly normal to feel nervous about leaving them, or to feel sad about how fast your child is growing up. The problem occurs when we project our emotions onto our children or assume, they are feeling the same thing we are.

Take your time: If you are new to day care drop-offs, remember your child is still settling in at Elm Tree and will eventually settle, but this may take a few weeks or a few months depending on your child’s personality and age. Also, some children remain upset and unsettled for long periods whereas some move past it quickly. But if your child has been at Elm Tree for a long time and has recently started to struggle at drop off then please talk with a teacher so we can work together to create a plan to support successful drop offs.

Let them go: It’s tempting to stick around, hoping your child will stop crying. It’s also tempting to sneak out, thinking that by doing so it will be easier for your child. However, neither of these strategies work well. The long, drawn-out good-byes increase children’s anxiety, and the quick ducking out plays into their greatest fears about being left. Instead, create a good-bye ritual with your child: Give those last hugs and kisses, and tell him you can’t wait to see him after school, come up with a secret handshake that only the two of you know, sing a song together or draw a secret message on the hand for your child to look at during the day. Then, follow through on your word and head out that door. We appreciate that at the time it feels like it will never end and that they must hate their time with us, even when we let you know that they have stopped crying about 20 seconds after you drive away, and greeted you with smiles and hugs at pick up time, excited to tell you about their morning.

Think about your child and how they approach and adapt to new situations. If your child is slow to warm up to new environments, spend some extra time letting them get comfortable at Elm Tree. Avoid the morning rush, make the morning routine calm and relaxed before arriving at Elm Tree. Plan to arrive a little bit early and create a ritual for easing in, such as reading a book together before you leave. Let your child’s teacher know the plan as well, so that the teacher can work with you and support your child as they adjust. If you know your child has not slept well, is under the weather or is teething, be prepared to spend some extra time dropping off that day. Calling work and letting them know you will be settling your child and coming to work a bit later.   

Talk about Elm Tree at home: Talk regularly about the fun things your child can do at Elm Tree or the fun times they have with friends and teachers. Talk about the water play, the digger, blocks, toys, messy play, cooking and baking and all those rich experiences so your child looks forward to coming back the next day.

Trust the Teachers: They are one of the main reasons why you chose Elm Tree. The teachers are not only qualified to work with young children, but they are also passionate about providing the loving care that you want your child to have while you’re away. Remember this when you drop off your child. You aren’t abandoning your child or leaving them with just anyone. You’re dropping them off with people who truly care and are committed to partnering with you.

We strive to build strong relationships with our children, so they know that Elm Tree is a safe place for them. We do this by acknowledging and respecting children’s feelings, as well as providing the love and care whenever they need it. There are also plenty of cuddles that seem to cure everything like magic!

What next? Once your child is settled and is confident at drop off times try adding more steps into their morning routine to develop their independence, confidence and empower them to take ownership of their place here at Elm Tree.

For example:

  • Ensuring their bag is packed ready for day-care in the morning or the night before.
  • Taking their bag out to the car.
  • Carrying their bag inside from the car.
  • Walking in holding your hand instead of being carried. When a child goes from being carried to being put on the ground it is another transition in their routine. It is easier to just remove that step by encouraging them to walk holding your hand right from getting out of 
    the car.
  • Signing their name on the children’s roll while you sign on the adult roll.
  • Picking the cubby they want their bag to go in – ensure it is at an appropriate height so throughout the day they can independently access their school bag to put their belongings away.
  • Finding their name tag and placing it on their cubby – this gives them a sense of belonging within the room.

Working on these small tasks help in these crucial early years of setting foundations for lifelong learning, resilience to handle anything, and confidence and independence to take on the next steps in their learning journey!